“I felt like I had to prove something to my parents. I’d gone to art school without their approval, and I wanted to show them that I’d made the right choice. So I overworked myself in every possible way. I tried to qualify for scholarships every year. I did little side jobs, and volunteer work, and lots of extracurricular activities. I actually enjoyed being so busy, even though it was exhausting. It made me feel alive. Like I was growing. And building myself. And moving forward. I felt like I wasn’t a loser in the race. I was keeping toward the front. But the whole time my body was deteriorating. It started with being tired all the time. Then I began to lose weight. Then little illnesses: a cold, the flu, digestive problems. I was carrying pills with me all the time. Then last year I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It was curable, and the surgery went well, but for the first time I was forced to think about dying. I always thought I wasn’t afraid of death. But before my surgery, I was scared. I realized that I didn’t want to die. I’m too young to die. So I right now I’m taking a break from life. I just want to get healthy. I’ve moved back in with my parents, and my plan this year is to have no plan. No obligations. No self-improvement. Nothing. It hasn’t been completely peaceful. There are moments when I feel anxious. Like I’m standing still. And the world is going on without me. And everyone else is doing something: studying, earning money, building a career. But I’m not. I’m just here.”

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